Sunday, May 12, 2013

Celtic Thunder "Heritage" DVD Review

Heritage album cover
February 2011 brought the release of Celtic Thunder's something-th DVD release, Heritage. It was filmed the same night as their previous DVD release, Christmas.  So, if the audience and stage look similar, that would be why. Heritage is unique in that it highlights a set of duets and, like the Christmas release, is pretty deliberate in bring guitarist Neil Byrne to the forefront. (Neil will later be brought forward permanently as a principal singer in the show.)

Let's talk about audience for a bit with a little bit of admission and confession first. I am a longtime Celtic Thunder fan, but I would be the first to admit that, as a group, we can be a bit odd. I've brought glowsticks to shows before to wave around and I've brought signs, though it's been a long time since I've done either, so it absolutely feels a bit hypocritical to criticize. I admit that.  But, I'm going to be honest and admit that this DVD makes the fanbase look a little cuckoo.

There are glowsticks waved in the air in time to the music (or not in time to the music), which absolutely draws attention away from the stage. There are glowing sunglasses, flags... I wouldn't be surprised if there were entire wardrobes made of glowing necklaces. I suppose none of this would really be that weird if there weren't so many audience shots, and the worst for me, so many shots of the audience singing along. Words cannot express how much I hate that.  The saving grace is the knowledge that, eventually, this practice of putting the audience on camera all the time dies off with the introduction of Mythology.  Saints be praised.

Audience aside, the music in Heritage is fantastic.

The Great

One of the definite highlights of this release is the ensemble song, Place in the Choir. a great song made popular by the Clancy Brothers, is a fun piece and a favorite with fans. It's entertaining to watch with lots of movement and features a great piece of linedancing-esque footwork. I'm being generous. But the attempt at dancing is a source of great amusement and shouldn't be missed!

As aforementioned, Heritage features three duets and all three are wonderful.

Damian McGinty Paul ByromPaul Byrom and Damian McGinty come together to croon a beautiful Just a Song at Twilight. Paul and Damian's voices complement each other very nicely, and it's one of my favorite tunes from both of them. George Donaldson and Ryan Kelly join to sing Gold and Silver Days. I unabashedly admit that George and Ryan are two of my favorites in the group, so to see them come together in song has always been a source of happiness for me. They blend really well together and the song is sweet and tender. Finally, Keith Harkin and Neil Byrne perform a very energetic rendition of Whiskey in the Jar. This one is fun, folks. Both performers are extremely talented guitarists and it is fantastic to watch them work the stage together.  All three duets are a huge plus.

The Good

Ireland's Call and Steal Away are both solid ensemble songs. Ireland's Call is always a fun rousing rendition, while Steal Away is typically beautiful. This arrangement features Damian's grown-up deep voice with George accompanying on guitar and later taking over the lead voice. There is a moment where the camera catches George's gaze on Damian that translates as very sweet and paternal-- makes me smile every time. However, both of these songs have been either recorded or performed often in Celtic Thunder, and part of me wouldn't be sad to see their spot filled with something new.

Ryan kelly Black is the Colour Heritage
Ryan's Black is the Colour is an old folk song that no one can quite decide which nation to attribute it to. Ryan's version is pretty disco'd up, to borrow a friend's phrase, but it's very enjoyable to watch. Ryan gives it a signature Dark Destroyer treatment, complete with an entertaining bit where he beats his fist in the air in time to the lights and music (truly a pretty cool effect), but the Dark Destroyer treatment has its pros and cons. Ryan is good at it. He's fantastic at giving a song a bit of a rakish bad-for-you-but-oh-so-tempting feel and I wouldn't criticize his talent for that. But, at the time Heritage was released, Ryan had also been doing "The Dark Destroyer" for a long time, and I began to be ready for something new.

Home from the SeaThe Ones I Skip

Both of the songs in this category are ones that aren't bad songs; they're just not terribly memorable for me. Home from the Sea is a seafaring ensemble song. It doesn't really have a ton of harmonizing going for it. On the plus side, it does make you want to sway back and forth and talk in Pirate. Paul's My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose is also one that I'm not in love with. It's pretty, tender, and a nice match for Paul's tenor voice-- just not my favorite of his.

If You Can Only Afford Three Tracks

  1. Place in the Choir
  2. Just a Song at Twilight
  3. Whiskey in the Jar

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